I orignally posted this back in August 2008, but since the title is still valid (more than ever actually), I´ll repost this for my new readers.
One of the things that I was surprised (and shocked) to read from Matilda Lee´s Eco chic - the savvy shopper´s guide to ethical fashion is that if things continue the way they have for the last ten years, the business of recycling clothes will eventually go OUT OF BUSINESS. It´s not that the world will run out of clothes and accessories but the quality of our clothes has degraded so much that an increasing number of them are not reusable or recycable anymore. In 2007 in UK less than 8%(!!) of all donated clothes actually ended up being resold in charity shops. A part are recycled as industry wipe cloths and others shipped as charitable aid to the third world countries. Some 7% are not even woth being recycled or further donated, so they end up in landfills. And this is just the clothes people bother to donate to charity. In the UK three out of four unwanted clothes a thrown straight to the bin with out the chance of being reused.
All the donated clothes come to the sorting centres as bulk so there´s no way of for the company to know how much of it can be reused or recycled. Sorting and shipping tons of clothes is a timeconsuming job that of cource costs a lot of money even though the material is "free". The recycle companies also pay for each unusable rag-ton that is dumped as landfill. And the tons are piling up. In the year 2000 some 65% of our donated clothes were still recycable in some way. In 2007 the number had dropped to 40% because we buy more and more poor quality rags. Eventually the waste costs of our donated clothes will be higher than the profits recieved from reselling secondhand. Get my drift? No wonder clothing recycle companies have so little percenage to give to charity since most of it is wasted in sorting and driving our polyester rags to the landfill... So what can you do? Here are my suggestions.
First, don´t buy shit. If you do deside to buy new clothes, make sure they are of good quality (preferably eco fibres) so they will survive to the second and third round. Buy secodhand as much as possible. Secondly, take good care and repair your clothes and accessories so they can be worn longer. Or customize them to a more fashionable and unique form. A new additional alternative is to arrange clothing-swap-evenings with your friends to exchange fashions with out money. Third, if you have clothes in your wardrobe that you do not use, donate them now. Fashion trends have become so fast that your clothes will "expire" if you hold on to them too long. And who wants to buy them then? Don´t throw any away. Fashion-swap is also an alternative. Here´s a good article about what happens to your donated clothes by Paula Bock for The Seattle Times if you´re intrested in reading more about this issue.